Palmer takes superb victory in Monza classic
Jolyon Palmer delivered an assured performance to clinch his second win of the season in the opening race at Monza.
|Palmer, Dean Stoneman and Kazim Vasiliauskas atop the podium|
Starting from pole, Palmer made a solid start to keep the lead into the first corner before second placed Johan Jokinen boosted past the 19-year-old on the run down to the second chicane. The Dane's joy was to be short lived however, as he received a drive through penalty from the race stewards. Jokinen had unfortunately stalled his car on the green flag lap, and he then broke the rules as he filtered back through the field prior to the start. It was a bitter blow for the talented racer as he handed the lead back to Palmer on lap eight.
Almost simultaneously Mihai Marinescu made contact with the rear of Jack Clarke's car in a fight for fifth place. The Romanian racer slipstreamed his British rival across the start/finish line, but the pair clashed as Clarke moved to the right. Clarke hit the barrier and was left stranded on the edge of the circuit, which required a safety car period to clear up the mess.
Dean Stoneman became Palmer's main rival after the restart - the Marrakech race winner having enjoyed a storming start to the race to move from eighth on the grid to fourth on the opening lap. He later made a stellar pass on Kazim Vasiliauskas for third position, which then became second after Jokinen's penalty and he quickly set about attacking Palmer for the lead - the pair even making contact during the safety car period!
Palmer was able to hold on in the closing stages, however, with his victory setting up a fascinating championship battle with just two points separating Philipp Eng, Dean Stoneman and Palmer in the overall standings.
"It wasn't an easy one," Palmer admitted. "When Johan came through the pits, I was leading with a comfortable gap. The safety car changed everything and after the restart the car wasn't feeling as good, but I had a lot of boosts left. The closing stages were tense, Dean was right behind me and I was delighted to keep him there."
Meanwhile, Kazim Vasiliauskas held a comfortable third ahead of Will Bratt with eleven laps to go. Bratt's race included a number of smart moves from tenth on the grid. The fight for fifth was frantic as Mihai Marinescu, Ricardo Teixeira, Jack Clarke, Philipp Eng, Benjamin Bailly and Sergey Afanasiev all enjoyed spells fighting for the position.
Clarke was eliminated following the aforementioned shunt, whilst Eng blew his chances after overshooting the chicane at turn one. Lukoil-backed Afanasiev had an amazing race - fighting from 21st on the grid to sixth after missing yesterday's qualifying session due to illness. The Russian racer couldn't resist trying to go one better however, and with two laps to go he made a late lunge on Marinescu at Parabolica. Afanasiev unfortunately outbraked himself and spun wildly into the middle of the circuit, which caught out the following Teixeira. The Angolan hit Afanasiev's stranded car and the pair were both eliminated from the race in heart breaking fashion. The clash left Marinescu clear to take fifth ahead of Bailly, whilst the recovering Jokinen took an impressive seventh.
Benjamin Lariche, Paul Rees and Plamen Kralev completed the points paying positions as a number of other drivers crashed out of the contest. Nicola De Marco and Armaan Ebrahim retired in separate incidents on the opening lap - De Marco having made an overzealous attempt to make progress at the first corner. Natalia Kowalska and Parthiva Sureshwaren were the other non-finishers after the pair made contact late on.